Iain Macarthur

Iain resides in London, UK and creates stunningly beautiful pencil and pen work pieces. Surreal and unique in its own way, using mostly pencil, water colours and pigment pens, he creates portraits of ordinary people but with embellished patterns and watercolour effects, transforming their faces from something plain to something entirely bizarre and wonderful at the same time.

Iain created the stunning ‘Skull Mistress‘ for us. We caught up with him in London and had a quick talk with him about his work and piece for us.


Q: Hey Iain, How are you today?

A: Hey there! Splendid thanks!

Q: We so impressed with the beauty you created for our colour series print, she’s a stunner!

A: Thanks, I had a lot of fun drawing it out for you guys. And was also fun adding some colour to it as well, which I don’t usually do a lot.

Q: How did you come about starting in this industry?

A: I started doing illustrations months after graduating HND illustrations at swindon college back in 2008. though I didn’t have a lot of money at the time so I stayed at my parents place and tried to focus on my portfolio. Trying to get notice was a challenge for me as I had no idea how to do it. Tried emailing companies and art websites to see if they be interested in my work. I also posted my portfolio on a creative based website called behance.net, I thought I give it a go as I heard good things about it. It took a while, in fact it taken me about a year till I was offered a commission doing small simple designs for different clients. 

My work was also discovered by a french fashion magazine called Be-street which they loved my style of work and wanted me to do some of there t-shirt designs and other jobs. I think since working with those guys my work has increased its reputation and has given my more opportunities in the illustration industry.

Now I have done jobs for well known companies such as Nike, Rook clothing, All saints and Front magazine.

Q: Take us through a typical working day for you?

A: well I usually start the day by checking and replying to job related emails and other important stuff ( I like to get the written stuff out of the way first before doing to fun stuff :P). then I crack on with artwork. Sometimes I browse through my pattern books or the internet for ideas on what to draw, symmetrical pattern tattoos and wildlife is my favourite to look through for inspiration. I don’t spend too long sketching out ideas when doing commissions or personal work, I like to just get right into the final piece and improvise when i’m doing pattern work. When ever i’m drawing portrait stuff I do the pattern side first (in pen) and then the face last (in pencil), I don’t know why but I feel comfortable doing it that way. Also I sometime draw cartoon stuff if I get to frustrated with portrait stuff.

Q: You’re known for your intricate penmanship and stunning black and white pieces, did you enjoy the challenge of using just one colour other than black and white?

A: It is a bit of a challenge When I draw an illustration that requires a colour or two because i’m to comfortable drawing just black and haven’t had the confidence to try out colour into my work. I always think it will ruin my illustrations if I do, but when I added colour to the piece for skull & hearts It came out better than I thought. Was really pleased with the layout and how some of the red pops out in the face. This makes me want to experiment in more colour work.

Q: How do you begin to create your beautiful pieces?

A: first of I draw the layout lightly in pencil, this usually takes a few hours to do as I sometime rub out areas and replace them with something else, once i’m pleased with it I then draw over the top using different sizes of pigment pens (either 0.1 or 0.2). its a time consuming process but if doesn’t bother me that much, I always have music or a film on in the background to keep me motivated. It takes mi 9 hours or 3 days depending on the size and how detailed the piece is. A normal human being would probably take a month.

Q: What and who are your inspirations? do you have anything specific that helps shift you out of a rut?

A: a lot of things inspire me, I sometimes go out for a walk or sit in a coffee shop n sketch, in which I see things such as the chairs or wallpaper or a persons face which inspire me to sketch them down in my book. I love looking through work from different types of artist’s, either old or new artists. Max Ernst was 1 of my favourites who does a lot of surreal artwork, art nouveau work inspires me a lot and also new art like James Jeans, Bruno 9li and luke Ramsey

Q: Tell us about the piece you did for Skull & Heart.

A: When I given the privilege to design a print for skull & heart the first thing I could think of was a women with a skull face paint on, and I think it fits well with the collection of skull&heart. Scary yet beautiful.

Q: Can you tell us about any future projects in the works?

A:at the moment i’m working on bigger pieces for exhibition this summer, really want to experiment more on that and also experiment more on colour as well, tis gona be epic!

Q: And of course, Skulls or Hearts?

A: Skull always 😛

All available artwork from Iain MacArthur is available to purchase in our online store. Please click the images below to be directed to the item you are interested in.